Hinawaju (matchlock gun) (火縄銃)
Hinawaju (English: matchlock gun) is one form of gun in early times. It is a muzzle-loader and uses black gunpowder.
It is thought to have been invented in Europe at the end of the 15th century and is also called a matchlock. If you pull a trigger, the fired match drops into the part called the pan. The fire ignites fine black gunpowder which is called kuchigusuri (gunpowder), moves to the explosive charge called dogusuri (loaded gunpowder) or tamagusuri (loaded gunpowder) and burns up in a burst (deflagration) and the pressure in the barrel propels the bullet. As for types, there are an instantaneous discharge matchlocks and a gradual discharge matchlocks.
They are subject to the Sword and Firearms Control Law.
Previous firearms were types where live coals (matches and so on) were pushed down by hands (a touch-hole type) ('flame-spurting lance' - a bamboo gun in the Sung dynasty, 'a fire lance' [a gunpowder weapon] in the Ming dynasty, 'madfa' in Russia around 1300 and so on) which was difficult to handle, and the firing accuracy was low. In order to make up for the shortcomings, a serpentine-lock system was contrived, where a match was sandwiched between serpentines and was cocked and set off with a trigger, and changes in structural aspects such as the gunstock and so on advanced and the hinawaju was completed.
In Japan it was introduced at Tanega-shima Island in 1543 and thus it was called a Tanegashima rifle or simply Tanegashima.
(As we'll see later, however, strictly speaking, all hinawaju were not called 'Tanegashima,' but those that were relatively thick and short were called that way.)
In a matchlock mechanism, performance such as accuracy of fire, shooting distance, and so on advanced greatly. On the other hand, there were many weak points to be improved, such as poor portability where live coals and matches must be always carried, danger of an accidental fire, extreme vulnerability to rainy weather and so on, and in night battles the enemy could easily see the position of the shooter. To make up for these, in Europe a mechanism where a piece of pyrite was struck on a rotating steel circular (wheel) to ignite the gunpowder (wheel lock mechanism) or where a firestone (flint) was struck on a piece of iron to ignite the powder (flint gun - flintlock system) were invented.
Comparing a hinawaju in the museum with a present day rifle, we can see a big difference between the form near the grip. This is said to be because a hinawaju was influenced by the crossbow where it was not necessary to absorb a large recoil from the gunpowder exploding and it was designed into the form where the bow part was removed. Because of this, the shooter could not shoot with the butt against his shoulder and close his armpits like with present-day rifles and thus the matchlock gun was used in the style where the shooter shot with an elbow squared like when setting an arrow on a bow (however, many matchlock guns in Europe were the shoulder type and the short type was in the minority).
The gunstock of the matchlock guns in Japan remained as the cheek gun stock type and did not change to those of shoulder gun stock type. As for the reason, it is pointed out that it was not appropriate for armored warriors to shoot during the Sengoku period (period of warring states), that it was cumbersome to shoot from gun crenels in tactics, and during peaceful periods the form and style of shooting was inherited through tradition and were rigidified.
The history of matchlock guns in Japan
Traditionally, according to the descriptions of "Teppoki" (a history book on the introduction of guns), the introduction of a gun to Japan began on Tanega-shima Island in 1543.
Recently, however, there is one theory which claims that the firearms spread across Southeast Asia were introduced in several regions in Japan by wako (Japanese pirates) around 1543 and in those days they were used as hunting guns (the theory of Takehisa UDAGAWA). However, among European and US researchers one theory is dominant, which says that instantaneous discharge matchlocks in Europe were introduced into Japan and improved, Holland bought them from Japan and exported them to Southeast Asia and the Japanese model spread across Southeast Asia as an example. Japanese old gun researchers say that 'matchlock guns in Sri Lanka' exhibited in the Portugal Pavilion of Tsukuba EXPO was 'Sakai tsutsu (hinawaju made in Sakai) for export' which was a Japanese gun that had a gunstock decorated with marquetry, the locals' favorite, which is considered as historical material supporting the theory.
After the Sengoku period in Japan, Kunitomo and Hino in Omi Province, Negoro-ji Temple in Kishu Province and Sakai in Izumi Province flourished as major production areas for guns. Only Negoro-ji Temple declined after the Azuchi-Momoyama period because of the influence of Siege of Kishu by Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, but even after that, Kunitomo, Hino and Sakai flourished as production areas for guns and they were proud of their high technical capabilities.
And as for technique of castle construction, battlement for a flank attack (it had already existed), exploiting the performance of hinawaju, developed and they were applied to Ako-jo Castle.
For a long time, from the introduction of the gun to Japan to the end of Edo period, the hinawaju did not advance. The reasons for this follow; in the Edo period Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA prohibited hunting and the possession of a gun by farmers in principle; that the transfer of a gun was limited; that, commonly believed, the technological advance of guns stagnated from the influence of the exclusion of foreigners (national isolation); that a flintlock gun (flintlock system) had a stronger spring than a hinawaju and when the gunlock operating the impact was big and after trigger was pulled, the ignition mechanism for the explosive charge momentarily wavered and the accuracy of fire was bad and thus Japanese who liked to 'ippatsu hicchu' (hit with one shot), disliked the flintlock gun; that good quality flints could not be found in Japan and could not be mass-produced; and that, as a big factor, the art of gun was inherited probably in the form of a school-style gun for competitions like all the martial arts and as a result, the improvement of the weapon was necessarily avoided. Thus, until new-model guns were imported for actual fighting during the end of the Edo period, most of guns were matchlocks.
Exceptionally, however, it was a fact that various firearms were secretly studied in each daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) and each clan and the variations were many. Just before the introduction of new-style guns during the end of Edo period, considering foreign situations, even the guns of percussion lock mechanism were imitated and experimentally produced, but there were many guns which, we do not know how to comment about, that could not possibly be in any practical use. Various kinds of guns were experimentally produced, such as a triple-barrel hinawaju which had three pans and whose gun barrel rotates like a revolver, a level double-barreled pistol and so on.
The basic way to use is as follows:
Ignite the match. Several ignited matches are often prepared. Also, there is a way called 'futakuchibi' where the shooter waits after igniting both ends of the match, folding it in two and holding it in the fingers of his left hand.
Load dogusuri (gunpowder) then a lead ball in gun muzzle (the cartridge was invented later and then the time and effort of loading largely decreased). With a ramrod, push down and fix the gunpowder and the bullet at the bottom of the barrel.
Put some gunpowder in the pan to act as an ignition agent, close the pan cover and place the lighted tip of match between metal tongs. As for the container for gunpowder, the regular one was the cylinder type of five to eight centimeters long and after pouring the gunpowder into the barrel and letting go of the container, it hangs down from the waist naturally and the spout is covered with a cap. The typical container hung from the waist.
Aim at the target and cut the pan cover (open the pan cover).
Get ready and aim at the target. Aim at the trunk of the body to increase the possibility of hitting the target body. The correct distance is when the shooter can see the white and black part of the eyes of the target.
Pull the trigger and shoot.
Reload. It is said that skillful soldiers could shoot about every 20 seconds (every 18 seconds in an experiment during the late Showa period).
Deployment of soldiers
Hinawaju came to be increasingly used as one of the major firearms for ashigaru (common foot soldier) after the middle of the Sengoku period. From the Sengoku period to the Edo period in Japan, for one troop, one or two group(s) of matchlock infantry (20 to 50 members) were positioned. At the beginning of a war or against enemies charging forward in a rush, they were used to fusillade and stop the advance. It is controversial whether the soldiers were closely-packed together or not. There is an opinion that they kept some distance for safety since gunpowder might have exploded accidentally when it was used in falling sparks.
Two-stage shooting: Soldiers line up in two rows, the front line kneels down on one knee, the back line stands up as they shoot. There remains a record that it was contrived by Narimasa SASSA, but it is not sure these positions were really used and were doubtful as mentioned above.
Three-stage shooting: Famous positioning the ODA army applied at the Battle of Nagashino. There is also one theory that Saiga-shu (the gun troops) applied it in actual fighting until around 1568 at the latest. There is also much debate about the three-stage shooting.
One shooter has a few hinawaju and assistants and while the shooter is shooting, the assistants load them and thus it becomes possible to shoot serially and faster. It was a special style of Saiga-shu and Negoro-shu (a group of armed priests in Negoro-ji Temple), known as groups of gun mercenaries. They took the side of Hongwan-ji Temple in the Ishiyama War and they anguished the side of ODA.
In military science of Uesugi-ryu school, this shooting method, dividing the labor into shooters and assistants is said to have been called the way of Karasu-watashi (crow handing) and in future generations, in the Kishu Tokugawa family, the job title of kusurikomeyaku (a gunpowder charger), the predecessor of Oniwaban (the shogunate's guard of the inner garden), retains a trace of it.
It is said that in general there are many things to do when loading the next bullet, such as 'clean out the residuary gunpowder from inside the gun barrel with a cleaning rod' (after shooting a few bullets the gun barrel soots up and the lead shot cannot be inserted, and thus it is washed with a ramrod with a wet cloth on the end), 'stick a ventpick in the fire hole,' 'cool the gun barrel down' (however, if one shoots every minute, it is not necessary) and so on.
However, these were told as 'parables' to emphasize the advancement of science technology in future generations and in fact it is not necessary for these tasks to be done for each shot, but for every few shots. Seki's school of gunnery has taught that at about every seven shots it becomes difficult for a bullet to be inserted. If you use a bullet called 'otori-dama' (inferior bullet), a bit smaller than an appropriate one, you can shoot more than ten bullets serially, although the accuracy of fire at the target decreases.
(At a shooting distance of 15 ken [about 27 meters], common in target practice during the Edo period, the accuracy of fire is almost the same even with otori-dama, but if the distance is more than 30 ken [about 54 meters], the accuracy decreases.)
Also, it is not necessary to clean the gun barrel and pan so often; it needs to be cleaned only after abnormalties are found such as difficulty inserting a lead ball. As for the cleaning method, you insert the cleaning rod, the end having a wet piece of cloth, into the gun muzzle and move it in and out one to two times, as black gunpowder is easily soluble in water. Skilled persons can shoot a second bullet after 18 to 20 seconds from the first.
(The experiment was done during the late Showa period.)
However, a muzzle-loader is not appropriate for serial shooting compared to present-day guns, which is easy to understand as mentioned above.
To improve the most problematic point that 'it takes lots of time to shoot the next bullet' of a muzzle-loader, 'hayago' (cartridge for simplifying the loading), 'to make up a team with several people,' 'to set up some gun barrels' and so on were variously (sometimes bizarrely) contrived during the Sengoku period (Japan) when hinawaju was used.
Transition of battle formations with the appearance of hinawaju
It was in Europe that the concentrated shooting method in open battle formation was turned into actual utilization and the earliest called tercio (Spanish square), where, against the advancement of a close-packed formation of pikes, fusiliers accompanying in four directions approach to the formation of the enemies at close range and just before contact, they firstly shoot and expect the first impact blow. As this method was used before the invention of the bayonet and the fusiliers who shot were not good war potentials, they are said to have retreated. Mainly pike soldiers fought in actual fighting. The idea of the exchange of shooters between the front and rear is seen in the military caracole of horse soldiers, utilized against military tercio. This was roughly seen from around 1530s.
To solve the weak point of the time needed to load and aspects of defenses, one method was contrived, in which, just after the front man of fusiliers marching in a column line shot, he ran back to the end of the line while loading, but it required much practice to do this. Maurice of Nassau (Prince of Orange) in Netherland is conjectured to have been the originator of this method, which is considered to have been around 1584. Today Maurice is called the father of the reformation of the military system, but his achievement lies not in the shooting method, but in the discovery that hard and incessant practices to attain a goal could change the armies in those days, which were aggregations of mercenaries, into a body whose members had a team spirit based on a sense of belonging and were effective beyond expectation, which was highly evaluated. Also, Maurice is highly evaluated as a militarist, who thought up the idea to have three kinds of soldiers; infantry, cavalry and artillery coordinated in order to apply mobile tactics and who actually made the tactics possible. Here, individual soldiers did not function uniquely. However, there is no record that the exchange method in a column line exerted a great effect; also, the sluggishness was not avoided fatefully for this method of movement, which some people think caused Maurice's death in war. It is doubtful to regard this period as that of hinawaju, but it can be considered as the end of the transfer period to the flintlock mechanism.
In fact, it was not until after the mechanism was shifted to that of flintlock when the shooting method of exchanging between the front and the rear was put into practical use, which, some people think, owed much to the improvement in the functions of the flintlock mechanism. Also, the appearance of bayonet drill is considered to have contributed much to this, but at the same time, during this period the operation of the cannon was dramatically improved and it still needs much revision to argue that only the exchange shooting of fusiliers transformed the battle line situation. These were roughly phenomena from the late 17th century to the early 18th century.
The operation of shooting arms based on obstacles
To make up for the weak points when loading early guns, they tried to shoot the advancing open battle army from places protected by barriers, ramparts, obstacles, unusual land features and so on.
The most famous example is the tactics conducted by Spanish military personnel, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba during the Italian Wars in 1503, where he commanded the Arquebusiers, whose number is estimated to have been 2000, positioned in a hastily built fosse and the embankment made with the remaining clod, that broke up the advancing French heavy cavalry troop, and these wars were an important factor leading to the establishment of Spanish hegemony. Also in the Italian Wars that followed, similarly in 1522, the commander of the mercenaries in the Spanish army, Colonna broke up the advancing Swiss concentration of spearmen with tactics of repeated shooting of the arquebus, using land features and hastily built ramparts. Matchlock guns are said to have been introduced on Tanega-shima Island 20 years after this incident. As the oldest example, believers of Hussites are said to have arranged the carts in a circular formation, made them a protective wall and applied the tactics of shooting with handguns in the Hussite Wars (1419 – 1436) that occurred in Germany.
It is said that they shot in rotation in any war, but there are no grounds for controlled alternate shooting by command method being done.
What is common in a series of wars is as follows:
The troops or tiny corps which had relatively low combat capability utilized natural or artificial obstacles and shooting weapons and were on the defensive, and defeated a strong surging open battle army.
As for an archetype, the Battle of Crécy (1346) in the Hundred Years' War between France and England is notorious as military knowledge from the medieval ages to early modern times. This battle is famous for the first record of the use of the gun, and it is said that the evidence of rapidly established horse-blocking fence is being revealed by an excavation and research, but, even though guns were used, they were very few and the fact and effect of the use of guns still remain to be proven. As a result, however, in this battle, intense shooting of the spearmen group, from hills, stopped and defeated the rush of heavily-armed knights group which were said to had be invincible so far. And during the end of this battle, in the Battle of Agincourt (1415), the exact same events were repeated. At that time the use of gun was not recorded, but as for the carrying of pointed stakes for horse-blocking, the order of British monarch Henry V (the King of England) was recorded. As an example this shows that the entire groups of cavalry were devastated in the battle between spearman groups and cavalry.
It is safe to say that this knowledge was applied to the operation using guns which had both newly emerging characteristics and weak points and it succeeded. In Japan, how European military knowledge was introduced into the people around Nobunaga and the possibility that the knowledge was applied to the Battle of Nagashino is interesting and remains to be proved.
Names of the hinawaju
In general, the arquebus or the same accented sound are well-known.
As for the flintlocks, names such as "snaphance," "muklet," "flintlock" and so on are known and they are said to be classified in terms describing their form, but there is no record of an origin for hinawaju.
As one theory for "arquebus," there is one form where, as one form of the early hand gun, hook-shaped jut was put on an iron tube attached on the tip of stick and when shooting the hook was attached to something and the stick was pushed into the earth, and one theory says that it was called "Hakenbüchse = a tube with a hook" in German and became the word origin and in French the similar pronunciation (Arquen bus =>arquebus) was accented.
And additionally there is one theory saying that the word origin was "Arque bus cylinder shaped arrow" in French.
Perhaps both were mixed and existed and came to be called common names.
Classification in Japan
The classification of hinawaju in Japan is roughly divided into two: one by the weight of bullet and one according to the area where it was produced and the school.
Classification by the weight of the bullet
It refers to the one whose weight is about three monme (1 monme = 3.75g) and the half. The power was weak, but it was cheap and the recoil was light and thus it was used as a hunting gun or a gun supplied to a mobilized soldier. And it was powerful for soldiers of the Ming dynasty or Korea, whose protective powers were weak, and thus it was massively used in the Bunroku-Keicho War.
It refers to the one with a weight of about six monme. Since it was more powerful, it became more difficult to handle the middle barrel compared to a small one; also, since it was expensive, it was regarded as a gun used not by temporaries, but mainly by ashigaru who continuously served the master. The protective equipment for defense against hinawaju, such as Tosei-gusoku (armor), taketaba (a bamboo shield against firearms) and so on, spread and as a result, it was mainly used instead of a small barrel.
It refers to one with a weight of about ten monme. It was extremely powerful, but since it was too expensive and too difficult to handle, only those who had trained fully and had the financial power could use it. They made buke hokonin (servant for a samurai family) have a samurai barrel and if necessary, used it.
It was also called horseback barrel. It is said to have been used on horseback or for self-defense. The gun barrel was short and it could be handled with one hand. It is similar to the gun used by European horse soldiers.
Odeppo (Japanese artillery)
Also called a Japanese hand culverin. The weight of the bullet is more than 20 monme and there was one with more than 100 monme that existed. In addition to usual bullets, it was used to shoot fire arrows and so on to destroy structural objects in siege warfare and naval battles. Different from a usual big barrel which is ignited by adding fire and positioned on the ground, it refers to one in the form of hinawaju using the gunstock and karakuri (mechanism). It goes without saying that the recoil is very strong; when firing, the shooter has to roll over to absorb the recoil. Thus, to ensure the shooting, they shot by setting it up on the ground like a grenade launcher or used it by mounting it on a firing platform.
Classification by production area and the school
Main differences were the outer form of the gun barrel (round, horn tube), the thickness, the length, the form of gunstock, the karakuri (inside and outside of karakuri), the foresight and so on. There are many types except for the following.
Sakai tsutsu (matchlock gun made in Sakai)
Hino tsutsu (a gun made in Hino)
Satsuma tsutsu (gun made in Satsuma)
The above-mentioned are those that go by the name of the production area.
Imported matchlock gun: It refers to a hinawaju introduced from abroad. Copying it, they made the guns domestically, which were called foreign style matchlock guns.
Inatomi gun: It refers to guns made on the basis of specifications provided by Sukenao INATOMI.
Seki style gun: See Seki's school of gunnery.
Many groups appeared in various parts of Japan, that shot blanks using a hinawaju in the event, calling themselves musket troops. They did it following traditional gunnery, but in Japan, during the Meiji Restoration, the military conscription and weapons were rapidly westernized and thus all the direct handing down of the school stopped. The existing schools were revived later by deciphering traditional ancient documents and so on. The characteristics of ancient gun group can be roughly divided into the following three kinds.
One that revived in terms of pure historical studies, based on densho (books on the esoterica) and so on (however, even after the Meiji period, it was obscurely inherited in rites and festivals and so on of one or two schools).
One which was studied for the purpose of re-enacting martial art characteristics of a region, based on the origin of the unit of gun fighters and so on.
Target shooting with hinawaju
In Europe and North America and so on, muzzle loader matches, including a hinawaju, are actively held.
(The players are sent to the world championship and the Pan-Pacific Championship from Japan.)
In Japan there is Muzzle Loaders' Shooting Association of Japan under National Rifle Association of Japan, and a target shooting competition is held. However, as there are various regulations based on the Firearm and Sword Control Law or the Explosives Control Law and so on, the population of players is very small. However, hinawaju made in Japan has a high-precision and thus, although the number of players is small, Japanese players often achieve a high ranking in international competition and many players from Europe and America also use hinawaju made in Japan in the hinawaju event. In the Asian region, only Japan joins the international muzzle loader association.
The match in Japan uses 'Japan official Tanegashima target (the target diameter is 40 cm)' whose shooting distance is 50 meters, same as international rules, which is called 'standing shooting with a long arm gun,' 'kneeling shooting with a long barrel.'
With the same target, a ten monme bullet tube (gun using a bullet with the weight of ten monme) is used for 'samurai barrel' (free style). A match called 'battery,' in which 'free pistol target' is used and the kinds of guns do not matter as long as they are muzzle loaders (guns other than hinawaju can also be used) and the shooting distance is 50 meters, has been halted but in the regulations, it still exists.
(However, it has been held only during competition at the Chiba Prefecture Shooting Range.)
Additionally there is a 'short barrel' where shooters compete shooting a short barrel with one-hand, using the same target at a shooting distance of 25 meters.
Matches unique to Japan
Regarding matches unique to Japan, following tradition, there is a 'traditional tournament' where the players compete using 'Japanese Targets (a standard target of the Edo period)' of eight sun square board (1 sun = 3.03 cm) with a four sun round black target, and the shooting distance is 27 meters (15 ken during the Edo period, 1 ken = about 1.8 meters); also there is a 'rapid-fire shooting' where ten bullets are shot in five minutes.
As stipulated in the Firearm and Sword Control Law, in order to possess modern guns, he or she has to be licensed or permitted to do so, while in order to possess ancient guns, the guns themselves must be registered, which is under the jurisdiction of prefectural boards of education (formerly, under the jurisdiction of the Commission for the Protection of Cultural Properties). The registration is for the gun, like with a Japanese sword, and a registered gun can be possessed by anyone, but in fact, concerning the shooting of live cartridges and blank cartridges, and the purchase, possession and consumption of gunpowder, every time you need to get permission from National Public Safety Commission through the police under jurisdiction (those who get permission to fire live must purchase gunpowder within one year and consume it within six months).
Live firing is allowed only in registered shooting galleries and as of 2005, as public shooting galleries, there are three registered ones such as the Kanagawa Prefectural Isehara Shooting Range in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture General Sports Center shooting galley in Wakaba Ward, Chiba City and Wakayama Prefecture Shooting Range in Kainan City, Wakayama Prefecture (however, the Isehara Shooting Range is under construction and currently can not be used, and in addition, there are private shooting galleries where live firing is possible).
An ancient gun mainly refers to a muzzle loader, but a large number of several kinds of guns were imported, such as an early breech loader, Spencer Carbine which was the main force gun of the Saga clan (later it became the original form of Winchester rifle), Chassepot rifle which was the main force gun in the Franco-Prussian War (later it became the basis for the development of the Murata-style gun), Dreyse needle-gun (Zundnadel gun) and so on. However, these were used for training after the Meiji Restoration or were sold to foreign countries and thus at present there remains relatively few in Japan. In Japanese law at present, an ancient gun refers to a domestically-produced one or a real foreign-produced historical relic, which have been individually proven to have existed in Japan as of 1867.
(Thus, the replica, even though made faithfully to the real one, is not allowed; this is because the registration system for ancient guns is for the purpose of the preservation of historical materials and artistic values, and is not established for shooting use.)
However, if it is a genuine ancient gun, but is altered to be able to use a new-type or modern ammunition after the Meiji period or if it can use actually-used ammunition (the most prominent one is, for example, SW Mk1 or Mk2 revolver, which is said to have been used by Ryoma SAKAMOTO), it will be omitted at the judgment for registration and thus can not be owned (because it can function as a modern gun). When it is a domestically produced hinawaju, a genuine historical relic, it has mostly no problem, even if it is brought from abroad. Those used for competition or for firing blank cartridges are mostly domestically produced hinawaju and are limited to historical relics.
Hibuta wo kiru (to cut the pan cover).
The expression 'hibuta wo kiru' means that you start something (such as an argument, a battle and so on). The origins are as follows.
That you cut (or open) the pan cover at the start of shooting.
That, when shooting, you cut the spill tied to the pan cover after loading.
Kento wo tsukeru (to put a guide mark), meate ga aru (to have an end)
A rear sight or back sight on the gun sights were called "kento," a front sight "saki no meate" and a rear sight "mae no meate."
The expression 'kento wo tsukeru' is used to mean that you detect the position, and from the action of sighting in, it came to mean that you have detected the position. From an early time, a mark for positioning of several wood blocks of wood block printing was called "kento" and this spread more widely.
The expression 'meate ga aru' is used to mean that you have an end or intention because fixing your sights gives rise to the expectation of hitting the target or prey, and the state of expectation is called "meate ga aru" or "ate ga aru'" and such uses are thought to have spread.
Expressions such as 'kento chigai (wrong guess), kento hazure (out of register) and kento ga tsukanai (to have no clue)' refer to the negative state of the same meaning.
Meboshi wo tsukeru (to mark down), Zuboshi (lucky guess)
The word 'hoshi' means black point as a target in Japan. After the Edo period the central black point of a wooden target board used for target practice of hinawaju was called 'hoshi' as a custom.
The black point for positioning on a Go board and Shogi board is also called 'hoshi.'
The expression 'meboshi wo tsukeru' refers to a determination of the central object by visual inspection and it comes from the action of visually inspecting and confirming the target 'hoshi.'
One theory says that the adjective 'meboshii' (notable, distinguishable) comes from this.
In police terms, there is a slang 'hoshi = crime suspect.'
In the old detective term it is considered as the abbreviation of "meboshi." Formerly, usage such as 'hoshi wo tsukeru = to presume a crime suspect, hoshi ga tsuku = to substantiate a charge' and so on existed (Cant Dictionary, Tokyodo Publishing Co., Ltd).